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Posted : 2010-10-18 20:35
Updated : 2010-10-18 20:35

Cloud computing gaining traction here


Manish Sharma, senior director of VMware’s Asia-Pacific business division, predicts a comparatively quick transition toward cloud computing in Korea.
/ Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul

By Kim Tong-hyung

The deafening hype surrounding cloud computing has yet to become reality. But the technology appears closer to becoming mainstream in Korea, where the acceptance is driven by the government and large corporations, according to an executive of VMware, a major provider of cloud services.

Cloud computing describes a new era of Internet usage when most activities and data storage are provided online and accessed from personal computers and a wide range of portable devices. Instead of spending to build their own information-technology (IT) infrastructure to host databases and software, companies can have cloud service providers host them in their farm of servers to reduce cost and improve efficiency.

The arrival of the server-based computing era would mean that IT becomes more like a utility in the line of electricity and water, with customers using as much or as little as they want and paying only for what they consume, according to Manish Sharma, senior director of VMware’s Asia-Pacific business division.

Although few industry experts doubt cloud computing will eventually become conventional, there has been much debate on how quickly the transition will take hold, as it seems that a larger number of companies remain reluctant to the idea of passing data on networks outside of their control.

Addressing these security concerns and convincing the more conservative corporate customers will be critical for cloud providers, said Sharma, who is encouraged by the demand here from banks and other companies in the business of managing highly-sensitive data.

The U.S.-based VMware, which posted around $2 billion in revenue last year, claims itself as the world’s leading provider of virtualization and cloud infrastructure solutions, based on the popularity of its vSphere virtualization platform, and currently has 190,000 customers and 25,000 business partners around the world.

The company is seeing increasing demand for its cloud computing applications and platforms in the Asia-Pacific region, including China, Japan, Australia and Korea, where Sharma sees most of the growth in the demand for cloud services coming from government organizations and conglomerates.

``I believe the acceptance of cloud computing solutions among companies will actually be quicker than what it took them to embrace virtualization technologies,’’ said Sharma in an interview with The Korea Times Monday.

``Compared to what it was a few years earlier, a significantly larger number of Korean companies now trust us to virtualize their mission-critical applications. The transition to cloud computing will come easier for these companies, as they have experienced our virtualization solutions providing better security for data than when it’s managed on physical servers.’’

The benefits of outsourcing computing operations are obvious. For companies, renting computing capacity and paying only for what they actually use is a cost-efficient alternative to building and operating their own servers.

Cloud services also allow cheaper and convenient ways for companies to customize solutions and adopt new technologies, as well as upgrading software and adding new features. And with employees accessing data anytime and anywhere on a broad range of devices, cloud services may allow firms to take a bigger step toward realizing the idea of the mobile office.

Security concerns, whether they are warranted or not, appear to be the biggest factor that is preventing companies from taking the leap of faith. Naturally, companies are always uneasy about storing data away from their premises, and this was what doomed previous Web-based computing efforts pushed by technology giants like IBM, HP and Microsoft in the earlier part of the millennium.

Korea’s shaky security environment, a result of the Microsoft monopoly in computing technology and software, is also a reason for concern. The country’s computer security mettle was tested unfavorably during a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that crippled over 80,000 computers at homes and offices in July last year.

Sharma claims that the excitement about cloud computing this time around is legitimate, as the number of companies embracing virtual processing in computing has increased dramatically over the past few years.

``A recent report by the International Data Corporation (IDC) says that the number of virtual servers deployed have now surpassed physical servers for the first time,’’ he said.

``Business in past years have been buying applications and IT needs so that they could deliver on the requirements of an expanding infrastructure, but all they have now is silo after silo that failed to give them the business ability they needed and inhibited the agility they needed to get ahead. Today, about 70 percent of IT budgets are locked in to `keeping the lights on,’ or renewing servers and hiring IT people, and there is hardly any money left for innovation.

``Cloud computing increases the agility and computing resources `on-demand’ ― businesses can launch new services to their customers in days or just minutes instead of months.’’

Companies are also increasingly looking to leverage the opportunities provided by new communications technologies and trends, such as social networking, location-based services, and mobile applications, as well as the arrival of next-generation mobile computing devices like the Apple iPad, Sharma said.

VMware recently acquired technology firm, Springsource, to develop solutions for corporate clients that enable them to build these applications and deploy them on virtualized environments and private and public clouds.

Korea seems to have jumped firmly on the cloud computing bandwagon, with telecommunications providers like KT and SK Telecom and IT companies like Samsung SDS, which happens to be one of VMware’s business partners here, adding pace to their cloud computing aspirations.

The government’s ``smart work’’ initiative, which aims to exploit the advancement in digital equipment and wireless technology to create a networked work environment that allows people to conduct tasks from anywhere, at anytime and through any device, also looks to be adding new opportunities for cloud providers.

The plans aim to have around 30 percent of public employees work from home or nearby ``smart-work’’ centers by 2015 with smartphones, laptops and other mobile Internet devices, which is hoped to boost productivity and minimize carbon emissions.
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